Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be a REAL Friend

In my life I've had several friendships go the way of the audio cassette and the dodo bird. An overarching theme is "friends" who were only interested in being friends in the loose sense of the word. They wanted to be friends in that friendship consisted of hanging out without any type of emotional connection or any real meaning. Deep topics were off limits and forbidden. Emotions were frowned upon. In other words, they wanted to be friends in the Summer-Sales-Tools kind of way.

The issue with this is how unfulfilling, how shallow, how unstable this type of friendship is. Friendship for me has been at times the only thing that has kept me going amongst the maelstroms of life. How can I have a friendship with someone who only wants to be there for the fun times and not the mundane, the difficult, the sad, the frustrating, etc?

I've been pondering a lot on this topic recently. I've come up with beatitudes (Thanks Gordon B. Hinckley) of what it means to be a REAL friend as opposed to superficial one:

Be Interested.
There's the misconception out there that you have to share all the same interests and beliefs with another in order to be their friend; not true. We are all individuals with our own interests and identities. If we all liked the same things and thought the same way, life would be really vanilla. Be willing to learn about one another's interests. Ask about them. Be excited about them.

Be Aware.
This is a big one. More often than not we become so self-absorbed in our own lives, we don't realize that there's others around us going through their own storms. We don't realize that we could be the answer or relief that another is looking for simply because we're not paying attention.

Be Supportive.
Real friends don't have to agree with each other's choices or decisions. It's not our job to pass judgement. It's our job to simply love and let them know that you're there for them unconditionally. This can translate to going to a Broadway musical even though you hate show tunes, attending a football game though you hate sports, or something a bit more complicated like supporting them in their wedding even if you can't tolerate whom they've chosen as a spouse.

Be a Safe Place.
Real friends should be able to be completely vulnerable, completely emotionally naked with each other. Fears, doubts, insecurities, secrets should be able to be expressed without judgement, without fear of others hearing about it.

Be Spontaneous.
Spontaneity doesn't have to mean a last minute road trip to Vegas. Being spontaneous could be going for milkshakes randomly on a week day or having a Lord of the Rings marathon on a Saturday. Spontaneity means stopping to smell the roses; it means enjoying life, no matter what you're doing but whom you're doing it with.

Be Thoughtful.
Friendship is a two-way street. One friend can't continuously give while the other continuously recieves. Being thoughtful entails saying your "please" and "thank you's". Being thoughtful entails wishing a friend well before a big test, eating ice cream and cookie dough together after a particularly difficult day. Being thoughtful is thinking of what you would do for yourself in a situation, and doing that for your friend.

Be Present.
Nothing irritates a parent more than trying to speak to their child and have their child be glued to a phone screen not really paying attention; the same translates to friendship. Unplug while you're spending time with someone. Besides being rude, it's extremely invalidating to feel like one's company isn't enough or appreciated. When a friend makes time in their day for you, you should to the same.

Be Loving.
Love is complicated topic no matter if it's platonic or romanticized. Really loving someone means that it is unconditional and not based off if you like them one particular day or not. It's caring so deeply for someone that you want what's best for them, regardless if it's something that they want you to do or not. And sometimes that means doing what's best for a friend out of love even when it can make them really upset with you. It doesn't always make you popular, but in the eternal scheme of things they will thank you.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13


Monday, January 18, 2016

You Are Enough

10 days. A little over a week. That's how long it's been since I've said goodbye to my beloved America. 10 days. That's the longest I've ever been outside North America. The longest I've been outside of the country.

It's often said that you don't know what you got till it's gone, and being separated from my modern, first world home, I can assure you that it's true.

Grenada while beautiful and located in the Caribbean, has been a major culture shock for me. It's an island country with a population of a little over 100,000. The culture is a mashup of English-French-Caribbean, soft spoken and easy going. 

Vehicles have the wheel on the right side and everyone drives on the left side of the road. When it comes to actual driving, the only rule is to use your horn and avoid hitting each other. There's no speed limits and only two stoplights (or so I've been told, I've only seen one). Occasionally you'll see a new car here but the majority are at least 10 years old.

AC is a luxury saved for businesses, schools, and bedrooms. Most people only own washers and hang dry their clothes. Dish washers are non-existent.

There's only two fast-food places on the entire island: Subway and KFC.

Currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar which is best translated to $2.60 for every American dollar. Pretty much anything you buy here will be more expensive because it has to be imported to the island.

Propriety is of upmost importance here. Beginning a conversation with "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" is absolutely essential. It can make or break a conversation. Fun fact, it's against the law to curse here... No really. You can be legit thrown in jail for it.

Robbery and mugging are frequent issues here, so every private residence is gated or fitted with bars and barbed wire.

Dogs and cats roam free. It's not uncommon to see goats or a cow tied up at the most random places along the road.

When it comes to the Church, the branch is about 70 members. Half are students and SOs, while the other half are locals.

It has been extremely difficult for me to adjust to this new life that I've been thrust into. I'm a privileged white boy from an upper-middle class family who's been missing the comforts of the big city: fast-food, more options at the grocery store, having my own vehicle, Lifetime Fitness, a large ward family, friends, family, and my dogs.

I've been compelled to accept that things are different. This is a different country. This is not the United States. And that's okay. Different doesn't mean one is better than the other. I can't change things and it's not forever. I'll be here for four months and then I'll get to go home for the summer.

It's not just Grenada that I'm learning to accept the things I can't change. For anyone who knows me, I'm notorious for having an intense personality, especially when it comes to my friends. I will go above and beyond, I will move heaven and earth if I care for someone.

I also have had the tendency to take it really personally when someone is a sucky friend to me, or they don't really show an interest in being my friend despite everything I do to be their friend. I tend to focus on a lot of negative thoughts about myself and internalize them. The most common being "What's wrong with me? Why am I not good enough for them? Why don't they want to be my friend?'

I've had a recent situation in my life where it felt like everything had aligned for me to be really good friends with a person I'd known for a while but hadn't necessarily been close with. I'd been giving all I had and making an effort to be accepted when it seemed that the other party really had no interest in my efforts.

Heartbroken and feeling like the scum of the earth, I turned to another dear friend for consolation. I told her of my efforts and of the seeming rejection from the other individual. I asked "Why?" I shared all my internalized hurt and negative feelings about myself. 

My friend turned the tables on me and made me realize something. Things hadn't just seemingly aligned in my life to where I could/wanted to be friends with this individual, but had lined up in the other party's life as well. In her words: "What's wrong with you? You're a funny, smart, handsome guy. What's wrong with THEM?!"

I know this may not seem like some huge revelation to anyone from what my friend said. But it did wonders for me. It made me realize that there was really nothing wrong with me. It wasn't in my control that the other person didn't want to be friends with me. But it was in control for me to realize that their rejection of me is no reflection of my self-worth.

Just as I must embrace the Grenadian culture and not change it, so must I realize that just because another doesn't see my worth, doesn't mean that I'm worth nothing.